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3x3 Basketball

Platinum’s Matt Salem sticks to silver linings after tearing ACL

Matt Salem vows to come back stronger after being ruled out for the rest of the PBA 3×3 season no thanks to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

The sweet-shooting forward lamented missing the chance to create something special with his new team Platinum Karaoke, but is just channeling his energy in rising from the injury he suffered in Leg 2 of the Second Conference.

“A lot of people reached out to me after finding out about it but the ones who know me and are close to me know that I’ll come back from this, and I’ll come back stronger,” he told Tiebreaker Times Tuesday.

Salem got hurt during Platinum’s clash with Purefoods Tender Juicy during the aforementioned leg’s first day last March 5 at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

Play was stopped at the 4:34-mark when the 28-year-old hit the floor, grimacing in pain while clutching on his right knee.

It happened after he landed awkwardly following contact mid-air with Titans big man Jun Bonsubre, as he went for a lay-up off a baseline drive. His shot actually went in and gave the guest team an 11-9 lead.

“The first thing that came to my head was, ‘Matt, if you can make your leg go straight, if you can move it sideways, if you can lift it up, this isn’t ACL.’ I was able to do it,” he recalled of that scary scenario.

Salem remained on the ground for a while, before getting back up with a bit of help from opposing guard — and fellow NU Bulldog — Pao Javelona and teammate Yutien Andrada. He was able to walk by himself to the bench.

“Then I said, ‘Matt, stay calm and walk to the bench and no matter what it is, you’ll be fine.’ And I was able to walk back to the bench.”

He actually returned to the game with 3:37 to go, subbing in for JR Alabanza while Andrada was at the line. He tried to brave through it but the pain was no longer bearable, that he called for time and checked out 20 seconds later.

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“I actually tried to play another minute after cooling down for a bit. I tried to do a box out but then my knee buckled, so I had to ask for a sub,” said Salem, who admitted he had watched the clip of that incident “a couple of times.”

His worst fear came through the next day, when a check-up with the renowned Dr. Raul Canlas confirmed that he had torn his right ACL.

“The same day I got hurt, I was able to get an MRI. The next day, Dr. Canlas said I tore my ACL. He saw me that week,” he shared.

It was difficult for Salem to absorb the diagnosis, for he was really looking forward to reaching new heights with the team who’s keen on winning its first 3×3 title after a couple of podium finishes in the First Conference.

“What actually saddens me more than the injury was the fact that we were killing it out there. It was a good start for us as a team,” he said, as Platinum went on to beat Purefoods and eventually reached the quarterfinals.

But then, Salem also looks at this predicament in another way, particularly as a reminder to himself to take things easy. He disclosed that he’s been playing with a partial tear on his shoulder since his time with Terrafirma 3×3.

That’s the reason why the 6-foot-3 stretch big was seen wearing a black support strap on his left shoulder over his uniform during games.

“Maybe it’s a way for me to slow down since I’ve been pushing my body way too much,” said the 29th-ranked 3×3 player in the country, adding that he also played through a sprained ankle for the Dyip, whom he helped to a pair of third-place finishers last conference.

“I didn’t give my body enough time to heal and rest. This injury will give me more time to focus on that,” added the cager from Orlando.

It will definitely take some time before Salem gets back into action, but he’s just being patient. For now, his sights are set on Friday’s surgery.

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“This is just a hump on the journey, a minor setback,” he said. “I’m still going for it. I’ll stay motivated, determined, and also patient. God gave me this trial as an athlete because He knows I can bounce back from it.

“I just want to continue to play the sport that I love for as long as I can. I’m just 28 years old. I still have plenty of gas left in the tank for the game.”

Written By

Oftentimes on the sidelines. Forever a student of the game. Morayta-bred.

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